I don't listen to a lot of American music on my own time, but when I do, it's usually someone from Washington. I'm not really sure what's in the water up there, but something about the sound of the music from that state just works for me. After a bit of questioning, I have to say that it holds up with the music of Reid Trevarthen, a singer/songwriter from Vancouver, Washington.
He's been steadily releasing music since 2010 and his fifth release, News, sees him exploring the world of recording with real microphones and handling all of the mixing and mastering on his own as well. Like his last two releases, he recorded News at the North Bank Artists Gallery in Vancouver with a very simple rig that's allowed him to make a wonderful sounding EP.
That wonderful sound comes courtesy of favoring melody over obvious lyrical clarity. You have the option of listening to his songs to find meaning in his words or you can just enjoy the melody. He cites Elliott Smith as a major influence, prompting him to double-track his vocals and perfect harmonies. Those harmonies are what saved "You're Only One" for me; until they started I was getting ready to skip over the song. It's a bit of the wrong kind of slow for my taste but the subtle harmonies make it worth listening to.
The best of the EP started with "Dead End Street,” an absolutely perfect country song, completely free from the polish and faux-twang that characterizes what the radio calls country these days. That influence carries into the slide guitar solo of "Reality.” Trevarthen described his recording process and I have to say, I don't know how he manages to turn out such good work with that little time dedicated to writing each part. Apart from the guitar and melody, each track within a song is written and recorded within an hour. He keeps things simple for "Long Road,” no rhythm tracks, just acoustic guitars and vocals that build toward a beautiful guitar solo before ending as quietly as the song began.
That simplicity continues in "Hungry Farmer,” a song with a melody that reminds me a lot of some of Ben Gibbard's work. The song takes you by surprise as well; with a sudden rolling drum beat and expansive harmonies. The final track, "Hook and Eye (Yeah, Ok)" is a bit of an oddball amongst the rest of the EP. It's a great pop song but it feels a bit like it should be a hidden track or a bonus because as a closer, I feel like it takes away from the powerful ending of "Hungry Farmer.” Even so, the a cappella intro really showcases Trevarthen’s skills as a singer.
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